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Jan 22, 2010

Wellington Phoenix fuming over ref

Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert and captain Andrew Durante have blasted the level of refereeing in the A-League after controversy marred novice Ryan Shepheard's performance in Perth's 2-0 win on Friday night.

Shepheard, taking charge of just his fifth A-League match, struggled to control the fiery clash, making some bewildering decisions that only added to the tension as players from both sides were left frustrated by the lack of consistency.

Tempers eventually boiled over in the 73rd minute when Shepheard awarded a soft penalty to the Phoenix after Glory midfielder Scott Bulloch brought down Troy Hearfield in the box.

Perth defender Naum Sekulovski and Durante became involved in a fierce push and shove off the ball and players from both sides rushed in to join the fracas, during which Manny Muscat made contact with Sekulovski's face.

Muscat was lucky to still be on the pitch at the time after being shown yellow cards in the seventh and 60th minutes.

However, his first card, which was handed out when he and Vince Lia crunched Chris Coyne in a tackle, was rescinded at half-time.

Instead, it was given to fellow Phoenix defender Jon McKain, who wasn't even involved in the tackle.

Eugene Dadi, who was shown a yellow card in the 25th minute for dissent, was also fortunate not to see red for a studs-up challenge on Jacob Burns in the 29th minute, with the tackle going unpunished.

While the Phoenix dodged bullets in those regards, they were left angry by several other calls that didn't go their way, most notably when Muscat was split open by a swinging Danny McBreen elbow in the 11th minute as the pair competed for a header.

"It's frustrating," Durante said of the refereeing.

"The A-League standard has got to be better.

"A few incidents ... throughout the game today ... simple decisions, just getting it completely wrong.

"It's killing the players, it's killing the game and it's very frustrating as a player."

Herbert confirmed he would air his grievances to Football Federation Australia.

"From a club perspective we will certainly do that," a clearly agitated Herbert said.

"I mean someone leads with an elbow and splits a guy's cheekbone open.

"We get told every week there's an infringement on that.

"But you don't see it.

"I think it tended to drift that way (to a spiteful contest because of the refereeing)."

Perth coach Dave Mitchell was less critical of Shepheard and hoped the melee wouldn't result in any suspensions.

"I think there's more serious issues than having players miss games for a little argy bargy on the football field than some of the bad tackles that go unnoticed for some reason," Mitchell said.

First-half strikes from McBreen and Todd Howarth were enough for Perth to secure the win, lifting the club to fifth on the table.

Former Glory striker Dadi endured a miserable homecoming, missing a second-half penalty to derail any hopes of a Wellington fightback.

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